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Colleges and naming rights to Web sites

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Charlie Brown, Sep 15, 2009.

  1. Charlie Brown

    Charlie Brown Member

    Some colleagues and I are talking about starting a site to cover the nearby college's sports teams. Let's say the school goes by the initials OSU. Does only the school get to use OSU in the domain name, in the URL, of the Web site? Even if they haven't bought every combination? Would we have to use nicknamesports.com instead of OSUsports.com even if OSUsports.com isn't taken?

    I would talk to the school, but:

    a) I don't know if they'd tell me the truth.
    b) They might snap up a few more domain names to keep us from having them.

    Do these laws vary from state to state? Does anybody know where I can get a definitive answer? We don't want to launch something and then have to change the name.
  2. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    I'm not a lawyer, but as long as the site isn't pretending to be an official Web site of the organization, you should be okay.
  3. reformedhack

    reformedhack Active Member

    Buy the domain name first, then ask questions. That $10 investment might save you some trouble later. Or it might make your questions moot if the school already owns the name.

    Good luck.
  4. Armchair_QB

    Armchair_QB Well-Known Member

    Since there is more than one OSU I would think you're in the clear unless you use the school nickname too.
  5. Charlie Brown

    Charlie Brown Member

    OSU was an example I used. It's not the actual initials. In our case, the school's initials are unique among major colleges.
  6. SportySpice

    SportySpice Member

    It's pretty simple: You have the right to call your web site whatever you want as long as no one else owns that domain or has trademarked the name.
    Go to a hosting services site, like godaddy.com, and see if the domain name you want is available. If it is, plunk down the $10 or whatever it is and it's yours. That was happening a lot when the rumors began about the Sonics leaving Seattle. People were trying to grab domain names they thought the relocated NBA team would want, hoping the team would pay big bucks to sell the domain name.

    A lot of sites have domain names (URLs) that are different from the name of the web site. For instance, someone bought cardinals.com and parked some low-rent search advertising on the site. If you go to azcardinals.com, you get the Arizona Cardinals' web site, which doesn't go by azcardinals.com. (Oddly, if you go to cavs.com, you get the Cleveland Cavaliers' web site, but cavaliers.com goes to a site called yeah.com)

    You can do the same thing as long as the site name you're using isn't already trademarked.
  7. Charlie Brown

    Charlie Brown Member

    Obviously I know little about trademarks and stuff, because I'll ask: If you buy a domain site, can someone come behind you and trademark the name of the site if you don't? These are two different transactions, yes? And I assume you don't learn from godaddy.com if a name is trademarked, so how do you do that? How much does it cost to trademark a site, in addition to buying the domain name? Or are they in fact the same thing?
  8. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    It would be tough to trademark something with dot com in the name unless you own the domain.
  9. SportySpice

    SportySpice Member

    If you want the actual address (we'll just use your original OSU.com, for instance) to be what everybody calls the site, there's no difference. If the domain, which is what people type in to get to your site (like OSU.com, yahoo.com, etc.) is available, that means if you buy it, you own the rights to it.

    So, let's say you want to start a site dedicated to, let's say, Outer Space U. and you want OSU.com as your domain.
    If OSU.com were available and you buy it, you're free to use and promote OSU.com as much as you want, even if the university markets itself as OSU. If the university had a trademark on "the official home of OSU sports," or a blog called "Outer Space Sports," you would NOT be able to use those phrases on your web site, but you certainly could use OSU.com all you wanted. You'd have to do a trademark check on that. I know you can do that online, but don't know where or how.
    If the phrasing or graphics are similar, the school may have a beef with it, but as long as you're using OSU.com and aren't using trademarked phrases or graphics, they can't legally do anything.

    The only time there'd be a problem is if you buy a domain, but decide to have people refer to it by something else that's already trademarked. So if you bought OSU.com and wanted to use graphics and have people refer to it as "Outer Space Sports" and another site -- even the school's -- has "Outer Space Sports" trademarked, I imagine you'd get a cease and desist letter fairly quickly.

    Bottom line: If your "OSU.com" domain name is available and you want to use that dot-com or dot-net address as your calling card, you're in the clear.
  10. Charlie Brown

    Charlie Brown Member

    Thank you very much.
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